MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines will sign close to P24-billion worth of defense deals on Friday as it seeks to boost its security capabilities.
Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said the contracts to be inked would involve the purchase of 12 lead-in fighter trainer jets worth P18.9-billion from South Korea and eight combat utility helicopters worth P4.8-billion from Canada.
The signing of the deal for the South Korean jets was supposed to be held this week. However, the schedule was moved to March 28 to accommodate the schedule of Young Ho Oh, president of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA).
“Our initial plan was to have the signing on March 22 but the representative of KOTRA requested that it be moved to March 28 in view of the non-availability of the president of KOTRA,” Manalo told reporters Friday.
“I was told that the president of KOTRA will accompany the president of South Korea in her official visit to Germany,” he added.
KOTRA is the agency in charge of the South Korean government’s commercial transactions. Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) will be the supplier of the jets, which will be used for territorial defense operations.
“This is a manifestation of the trust of the two countries,” Manalo said.
“This project has long been delayed many many years since the approval of the Republic Act 7898 in 1995. We should have acquired these (jets) before,” he added, referring to the Armed Forces Modernization Act.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, the chiefs of the Air Force, Navy and Army and other defense officials are expected to attend the signing ceremony.
KAI President and Chief Executive Officer Ha Sung Yong and South Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Hyuk Lee are also expected to witness the event.
KAI will be providing FA-50 jets, which are derived from the family of T-50 advanced jet trainer air assets. The first batch of jets will be delivered late next year. The delivery of the jets is expected to be completed by 2017.
Meanwhile, three of the eight combat utility helicopters to be acquired from Canada will be used to transport top Philippine officials.
“Three of these eight helicopters will be configured as VIP helicopters,” Manalo said.
“We were able to negotiate that if the contract is signed within the month of March, within first quarter of 2014, then they’ll be able to deliver at least three of the helicopters in September in time for the hosting of the Philippines of the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation),” he added.
The remaining five helicopters will be used to replace aging Bell 412 helicopters acquired during the Ramos administration.
Manalo said the helicopters to be acquired from Canada also belong to the Bell 412 variant but with more advanced features.
The Defense department will acquire the helicopters through a government-to-government transaction with the Canadian Commercial Corp.